Perfecting your practice

Social media? Email does it better

By Peter Hulm

Social media — i.e. Internet communications — are the obsession of many NGOs these days.

The promise is instant global impact, trouble-free fundraising, a highly visible international profile and minimal costs.

But how does it pan out in reality? How much effort should an organization be devoting to a programme whose demands on resources can be much greater than you expected?

Answers from NGOs

The website NonProfit Tech for Good now has some answers. It points out that NGOs would be the world's fifth biggest economy if the money they control was for a single country. The findings have some lessons for U.N. and similar people-centred international organizations as well.

2016 chart

This chart is from 2016 but it gives a better illustration than the text report from 2017.
Emails better than Twitter or Facebook

NTG's 2017 NGO Online Technology Report says 80% of global NGOs agree that email updates are effective for online communications and fundraising, compared with only 51% for Twitter. Facebook scored 74%. This was particularly so for fundraising by African and Asian NGOs.

Social media for brand awareness

Not surprisingly, 95% of 4908 NGOs from 153 countries agreed that social media are effective for online brand awareness.

...and also for social change and recruitment

But 88% thought social media effective in creating social change, and 80% said it helped them recruit local volunteers.

Younger for social media, older for email

In all, 71% considered online media effective for fundraising. But there were major differences between regions and ages, with younger NGO supporters readier to give funds through social media while baby boomers prefer email solicitation.

chart of European assessment

As before this uses a 2016 chart for quick legibility
Subscribers double for email

As benchmarks for success, NTG noted that large NGOs reported over 169,000 subscribers for email updates, compared to 160,000 for text messages, and 80,000 Twitter followers.

One third donate, one quarter volunteer

Nearly one in three people donated to charities in 2015, NTG reports. One in four volunteered.

Bosses still male, though 75% staff female

Three out of four employees in the NGO sector are female. But men hold the majority of leadership positions, even in 2016.

Half have used social media for live reporting

Over half the NGOs, small, medium-sized and big, said they had used social media to report live from events.

Webinar exchanges experience

So NTG organized a webinar in mid-February to gather experiences and pass on advice.

The session came to some perhaps surprising conclusions.

Train, practise

NTG advises: "Live reporting from nonprofit conferences and events requires an advanced skill set, training, and a lot of practice."

Three posts a day

For Facebook, "the best practice is to share three posts daily and use Facebook Live at least once when live reporting".

Prepare 15 tweets in advance

"Write a minimum of five call-to-action and 10 stats posts/tweets with sources in advance that can be easily copied-and-pasted during the event," NTG adds.

More tips

NTG has a number of other good tips from the online discussion. These are all available on our website.

The 2017 Technology Report is available here, and the 2016 eport is here. The Report is sponsored by the Public Interest Registry, set up in 2003 by the Internet Society to manage the .org domain.

Its own summary of 27 major points is here. It regularly passes on tips for online practice.